D'Angelo Russell Rumors: Suns' Devin Booker Campaigned; Latest on Lakers Reunion

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2019

Brooklyn Nets' D'Angelo Russell looks on during the first half in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in Philadelphia. The 76ers won 122-100. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

The future of restricted free agent D'Angelo Russell likely hinges on the futures of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. If the pair choose to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, Russell will have a new home next season.

But where?

One possibility, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe, is Phoenix:

"The Suns will sign a veteran point guard, and Devin Booker has campaigned for Russell—a close friend. But other voices within the Suns may not share Booker's unabashed enthusiasm, sources say. They have only about $14 million or so in cap space as of now. We'll see how Phoenix approaches the point guard market."

Other possibilities are the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, though both seem like long shots, per Lowe: "There is at least a kernel of truth to the Lakers' interest in a reunion, sources say, but L.A. has a lot to sort out. Russell fits the Knicks' timeline in case they strike out on bigger fish, but all indications are that New York will pursue short-term deals in that scenario, sources say."

A Lakers reunion would be quite the 180-degree turn. The team traded Russell after he famously lost the trust of the locker room. That said, former team president Magic Johnson would bring him back if he was still with the Lakers, per Bill Oram of The Athletic:

"The very man who deemed Russell unfit for the Lakers would welcome a return.

"'He's better now,' Johnson told The Athletic on Monday night, tapping his right temple with an index finger as he stood in a parking lot outside the NBA Awards at the Santa Monica Airport. 'He's a different player. He's more mature.'"

What would Russell bring to the Suns, the Lakers or even the Knicks?

The 23-year-old was an All-Star in the 2018-19 season, averaging 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and a career-best 36.9 percent from three.

In Phoenix, he would address the team's huge hole at point guard, giving the Suns a pick-and-roll specialist who could take some of the creation burden off Booker's hands. Russell and Booker would be a dynamic offensive combination, though defensively the Suns would be in trouble.

A young core of Russell, Booker and Deandre Ayton—buoyed by power forward Dario Saric and wings like Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr., if he re-signs—would be an exciting one. The Suns would score points in droves. The question would be how many points they gave up in the process.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, Russell would scratch two major itches for the Lakers: secondary playmaking and perimeter shooting. While he would see fewer touches out of the pick-and-roll than he did with Brooklyn since LeBron James serves as the team's primary ball-handler in the midcourt offense, he would give James a similar player to what he had with Irving in Cleveland, albeit a less talented version.

As for the Knicks, the team would probably be best served to build around its current young talent if it fails to land a big fish in free agency, seeing what it has in players like RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr. and Kevin Knox. Both Smith and Barrett project as high-usage players, making Russell an imperfect fit in New York.

It's also possible Russell could be a backup plan for teams who see their other targets go elsewhere. If the Philadelphia 76ers lose Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, for instance, they could potentially make a run at restricted free agents like Russell or Malcolm Brogdon.

Lowe brought up several other possibilities, such as the Dallas Mavericks: "Dallas has a point forward; intel on what the Mavs might do with their cap space is all over the place." Another option, per Lowe, is the Indiana Pacers: "Indiana will have a hole at the position if Darren Collison leaves, and they will look at lots of targets—including Russell. But they have so far focused on Ricky Rubio, sources have said." The Minnesota Timberwolves may also be a factor, though their "pathway to a Russell deal is murky."

Russell will have options. Of course, if Irving doesn't end up in Brooklyn, it seems likely that Russell will return to the Nets. Regardless, it will be a fascinating summer for the young point guard.

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